Fred Perry Way – Stockport to Reddish

The third and last leg, starting from the confluence of the Tame and Etherow where the Mersey begins.

Passing the remains of the railway bridge carrying the Cheshire Lines through to Tiviot Dale Station.

Over the river and beneath the terminal pylon.

Along Penny Lane beside Lancashire Hill flats.

Across Sandy Lane into Coronation Street.

Once a rare sight on our roads the ubiquitous SUV reigns supreme on our suburban streets – the level of UK car debt currently stands at £73 Billion.

We weaved in and out of the highways and byways of South Reddish.

Through Unity Park where the goals are lower than low.

The hoops are higher.

And the bowls are rolling.

Past the perfect Platonic bungalow.

Taking the well worn path betwixt and between the houses.

Crossing open country.

Encountering exotic planting worthy of the French Riviera.

Noting the voguish transition of the local semi-detached housing from white to grey and the now familiar sight of the Range Rover in the former front garden.

The reverse of a roadside sign can often be far more interesting and attractive than the obverse face.

Reddish South Station sustained by the once a week parliamentary train, on the Stockport to Stalybridge Line, coincidentally the only time, as a goods guard, I ever worked a passenger train, was along here, one Christmas long ago.

We stopped at Denton, a request stop, the seasonally boozy passenger gave me a fifty pence tip.

George’s – where I bought a bag of chips on the way back, great chips, friendly and safe service with a smile.

Houldsworth Working Mens Club designed by Abraham Henthorn Stott forming part of the model community developed by the late-C19 industrialist Sir William Houldsworth, which included cotton mills, workers’ housing, school, church and a park.

Church of St Elisabeth 1882-3, by Alfred Waterhouse one of the finest Victorian churches in the country – both of the buildings are Grade II Listed.

Over the way the former Victoria Mill, converted into apartments.

With adjoining new build.

We faithfully followed the signs, noting a change from blue to green.

Somewhere or other we went wrong, our luck and the signs ran out, we instinctively headed north, ever onwards!

Traversing the Great Wall.

Mistakenly assuming that the route ended or began at Reddish North Station that’s where we landed.

Back tracking intrepidly along the road we found the source of the Fred Perry Way.

In the North Reddish Park – where tennis can still be played today albeit with a somewhat functionalist net, on an unsympathetic surface.

Journey’s end.

To forget, you little fool, to forget!

D’you understand?

To forget!

You think there’s no limit to what a man can bear?

Fred Perry Way – Stockport To Hazel Grove

Second time around – having once cycled the whole way in 2009.

I’ll do anything twice or more – so here we are again, this time on foot.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start – in the middle, the section from the town centre to Hazel Grove.

Maps are available here for free – we declined the offer, deciding to follow signs instead, many of which were missing or rotated, the better to misinform and redirect – such is life.

We are mostly lost most of the time, whether we like it or know it or not.

We begin at the confluence of the rivers Mersey and Goyt – which no longer seems to be a Way way, the signs having been removed, and proceed down Howard Street, which seems to have become a tip.

The first and last refuge for refuse.

Passing by the kingdom of rust – Patti Smith style.

Passing under the town’s complex internal motorway system by underpass.

Where help is always handily at hand.

Whistling past the graveyard – the site of the former Brunswick Chapel where one and hundred and fifty souls lay lying.

Onward down Carrington Road to Fred’s house.

Through Vernon Park to Woodbank Park – with its heroic erratic.

Almost opposite the entrance to the museum, now set in shrubbery, are the foundations, laid in September 1860, of what was to be a forty metre high Observatory Tower. Despite a series of attempts, funds for the tower could not be raised and the ‘Amalgamated Friendly Societies of Stockport’ eventually had to abandon the idea.

Historic England

Out east and passing alongside the running track.

Lush meadows now occupy the former football field, twixt inter-war semis and the woodland beyond.

Out into the savage streets of Offerton where we find a Buick Skylark, incongruously ensconced in a front garden.

The only too human imperative to laugh in the face of naturalism.

We have crossed over Marple Road and are deep in the suburban jungle of mutually exclusive modified bungalows.

Off now into the wide open spaces of the Offerton Estate – the right to buy refuge of the socially mobile, former social housing owning public.

People living on Offerton Estate have been filmed for a programme entitled ‘Mean Streets’ which aims to highlight anti-social behaviour in local communities.

MEN 2007

The next thing we know we’re in a field, a mixed up melange of the urban, suburban and rural, on the fringes of a Sainsbury’s supermarket filling station.

We cross the A6 in Hazel Grove and here for today our journey ends

Ignoring the sign we went in the opposite direction.

As we reach the edge of Mirrlees Fields – the site of the only Fred Perry laurel leaf logo emblazoned way marker.

The Fields are currently designated as a green space and are not available for residential development. But MAN would like to overturn this designation for over one third of the Fields.

MAN Energy Solutions UK is the original equipment manufacturer of Mirrlees Blackstone diesel engines.

Before the Blackstone MAN came in 1842 – the fields were all fields.

To be continued.

Exmouth to Bridport

Another day another breakfast – reduced rations and rashers, the now inevitable hash brown and a far too common failure to recognise my preference for tinned tomatoes.

Soldier on.

Friday 31st July 2015 leaving town beneath the bright morning sun.

Following a shady lane.

Crossing a drain.

Noting one curious prefabricated concrete lean to too.

Up over the Devon Downs.

Arriving in Sidmouth

A beautiful coastal town with a regency feel which is ideal for visitors of all ages. Sat in the middle of spectacular countryside Sidmouth is home to beautiful beaches, stylish eating places and great shopping, with everything from unusual gifts, designer clothing and lifestyle goods available.

The day of my visit the Folk Festival was in full swing – I encountered hardened drunken cider drinkers, drunk in the park and more tie-dyed clothing, than you would consider it humanly possible to produce.

With a hey nonny no I left town – up a very steep hill.

At the top of the hill, I unexpectedly came upon an observatory.

The Norman Lockyer Observatory to be precise.

It is both a historical observatory and home to an active amateur astronomical society. It is a centre for amateur astronomy, meteorology, radio astronomy, and the promotion of science education.

The observatory is regularly open to the public, staffed entirely by volunteers, and each summer hosts the South West Astronomy Fair.

Norman Lockyer was a Victorian amateur astronomer, who discovered the element Helium in the Sun’s corona in 1868 and was one of the founders of the science journal Nature in 1869. He became the director of the Solar Physics Observatory at South Kensington and the first professor of astronomical physics in the Normal School of Science – now the Royal College of Science, in 1887, he was knighted in 1897.

Using one’s own skill and ingenuity it is entirely possible to deduce that one arrived at such an august hill top observatory – at exactly X o’clock!

We’re now on the road to Beer, more of which in a moment first we’re on the way to Branscombe.

The Church of St Winifred’s set in a sylvan glade.

Characteristic Saxon chiselling on stones hidden in the turret staircase suggest the probability of an earlier, 10th century, Church on the site. Saint Winifred’s is among the oldest and most architecturally significant parish churches of Devon. The 12th century square central tower is one of only four completely Norman towers in Devon.

The church contains a rare surviving example of wall painting, dated about 1450 and discovered in 1911, the couple in this fragment illustrate Lust.

Sadly much of our ecclesiastical art was removed, destroyed or over painted during the Reformation, exacerbated by Cromwell and a general disdain for pictures and such.

Lust was also to be removed, destroyed or over painted.

The reverence for royal succession was and is actively encouraged.

Well that’s quite enough of that, next stop Beer!

The beautiful picturesque village of Beer is located on the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Devon.  Surrounded by white chalk cliffs, the shingle beach is lined with fishing boats still bringing in their daily catches and is famous for its mackerel.

On the edge of the South West Coast Path, Beer has some of the most stunning coastal walks in the county, one of the best being from Seaton to Beer with dramatic views across the Jurassic Coastline. Beer was also named recently by Countryfile as the Top Picnic spot in the UK from Jubilee Gardens at the top of the headland, chose for its stunning view of the beach and village from the hillside.

A narrow lane leads to the bay, clogged with oversized Toytown motor cars, full of folk in search of something which they’re doing their level best to remove, destroy or over paint.

Toytown is home to Larry the Lamb,and his clever sidekick, Dennis the Dachshund. Each day a misunderstanding, often arising from a device created by the inventor, Mr. Inventor, occurs which involves Ernest the Policeman, the disgruntled Mr Growser the Grocer and the Mayor.

Delightful home compromised by the curse of the ubiquitous uPVC.

Next thing you know we’re in Seaton.

Whether you are looking for interesting attractions, wanting to explore stunning natural landscapes, experience thrilling outdoor activities, or just wanting somewhere to stay, eat or shop, you’ll find it all in Seaton.

I found a pie shop and a pastie.

I found an ironmongers with a Stymie Bold Italic/Profil fascia.

Frequented by men who tend to adopt a combative stance when confronted with displays of ironmongery.

I found the road to Lyme Regis and the Regent Cinema.

1985

The Regent Cinema opened on 11th October 1937 with Hugh Wakefield in The Limping Man. It was built for and was operated by an independent exhibitor.

Bristol based architect William Henry Watkins designed a splendid Art Deco style inside the cinema which has seating on a stadium plan, originally the seating capacity was for 560. It has a raised section at the rear, rather than an overhanging balcony. Lighting in the auditorium is of a ‘Holophane’ type, which changes colours on the ceiling. The proscenium opening is 35 feet wide. There was a cafe located on the first floor level.

In recent Years it has been operated by the independent Scott Cinemas chain. The Regent Cinema has been recently restored. From October 2000, English Heritage gave it a Grade II Listed building status.

Cinema Treasures

2016 – Following the devastating fire at the Regent Cinema on Tuesday 22nd March, we can now confirm that the auditorium block of the Regent has been damaged beyond repair, and will have to be rebuilt. Damage to front of house areas is largely cosmetic, and will be attended to as part of the wider build scheme. We have every intention to rebuild the cinema to its former glory.

2019 – The WTW-Scott Cinema group is still actively engaged in a potential rebuild scheme for the Lyme Regis cinema. We’re currently working on our fourth set of design proposals, from which we need to reach the point where the rebuild scheme is both financially and architecturally viable. At present, we have not consulted with local authorities as there is little point in wasting everybody’s time presenting a scheme design that isn’t viable. New build cinemas are architecturally very complicated, and the Lyme Regis venue being a listed building presents challenges to overcome, all of which add significantly to any build schedule. Once we have a viable, workable scheme, we look forward to working with the local authority and Historic England to progress this.

The remainder of my time in Lyme was spent desperately seeking a bed for the night, to no avail. Following multiple enquiries and dead end directions to no-go destinations, I headed out of town.

Bridport bound – where I chanced upon a Pub/B&B the magnificent Lord Nelson where the owners allowed me to store my bike in the ninepin bowling alley.

I sat in the beer garden at the Lord Nelson and boozed – chatting to a local lad that worked in the local brewery, brewing the local beer, that was served in this very same local pub.

Palmers Ales are brewed in one of Britain’s oldest and prettiest breweries and have been since 1794. The only thatched brewery in the UK, Palmers sits adjacent to the river Brit just a mile from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. All our fine ales are brewed using water from our own naturally rising spring. 

Our Head Brewer uses only the finest Maris Otter malt and carefully selected whole leaf hops to produce ales in a way they have been made for generations. Palmers historic brewhouse has a traditional Mash Tun, an open top Copper, along with top fermentation, this is the way ale should be brewed.

I finished up somewhere else, sat outside chatting to someone else, about something else.

Wandered happily home to bed.

Night night.

West End Park – Ashton under Lyne

This is a short history of a park, a short history of my family and me.

The movement of earth and people, a tale until now untold now told.

West End Park is a public park, opened in 1893. The site is bounded by Stockport Road, Manchester Road and William Lane. It was developed on land associated with St Peter’s Church.

St Peter’s was built between 1821 and 1824, and was designed by Francis Goodwin. A grant of £13,191 was given towards its construction by the Church Building Commission. The land for the church was given by the patronage of George 6th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, whose cousin, Revd Sir George Booth, had been Rector of Ashton from 1758 until 1797

The benevolent Victorian landowners thought it politic to provide parks for the working folk, fresh air, exercise and perambulation being preferable to the demon drink.

Friendship Old Street – now a solicitor’s office

The area around the park was a dense warren of housing and industry.

Britain from Above

The parks provided a welcome relief from the tarmac, brick and concrete – very, very few homes having had access to a garden.

During the 1930s local councillors simply can’t resist the charms of the rocking horse.

And a burst of colour in the summertime.

The West End was transformed in the 60’s, through slum clearance, the subsequent building of high rise and the introduction of light industry.

My Grandfather Samuel Jones lived in the area – at one time next door to George Formby Senior.

Later moving to nearby Hill Street.

There’s a plaque for George – there isn’t one for Sam.

During the Great Depression men were required to work for the Dole – Sam was required to dig out a sunken garden in the park – he was a collier by trade, a good man with a shovel, built for back breaking work on Ashton Moss.

David Vaughan

Sam in Blackpool 1954

This is the sunken garden in the 1960s

Thirty yards wide, forty yards long and three yards deep, shifted by hand.

Three thousand six hundred cubic yards of earth.

One cubic yard of topsoil weighs about two thousand pounds on average.

Seven million two hundred thousand pounds of earth.

I worked there in the 1970s along with Alec and Danny bedding out the sunken garden, maintaining the bowling green, tennis courts and playground.

Keith Ingham

There were two permanent gardeners in the park, and a keeper in the summer – plus Danny Byrne and me brought in to help at busy times.

Throughout the 70s and onwards, economic decline hit the area hard, the closure of the cotton mills and little hope for the future. Rising unemployment and severe cuts to public spending did little to assure a rosy future for West End Park, or anything or anyone else for that matter.

Help was at hand – one of many public projects funded by our old friends the EU. Changes in the way that parks were used and further spending cuts sounded the death knell for the flowers and bowling. Large open grassed areas were cheaper and easier to maintain.

And so the sunken garden was filled in, this time by mechanical means – all in a days work for a bloke with a JCB.

So I sit and reflect on the labour and conditions that created this and many of our public parks, our legacy is a much impoverished version of the original vision.

I think of my grandad Sam and his comrades, the sweat of their collective brows buried forever.

Our legacy the small state, a bring and buy your own world economy.

It would make you weep.

Pomona – Manchester

The River Irwell bisects Salford and Manchester, joining the rivers Irk and Medlock, and then turns west toward Irlam, as part of the Manchester Ship Canal. Its course ends just east of Irlam, where it empties into the Mersey.

Urban development is ever so often dependent upon rivers – for sustenance, commerce and amusement. The Irwell and latterly the developments of the canal system has provided all of these in superabundance.

By 1870 the Pomona Gardens is thriving , boasting a concert hall and banqueting suite – further details here from Skyliner.

In the summer of 1887, a nearby chemicals factory exploded, damaging the palace – the area was under threat and destined to rot away to obscurity: the following year the gardens closed forever.

By 1900 the Ship Canal, docks and railways had arrived – Manchester and Salford are at the centre of an unprecedented growth in manufacture and trade.

1891
1923
1950

During the 1970’s the docks began a rapid decline, largely due to containerisation. The increasing size of freight-carrying ships meant they could no longer navigate the ship canal and this, combined with increased trading with Europe and the east, saw use of Manchester Docks decrease. In 1982 the remaining docks closed and the area became derelict. Recognising the need to redevelop the area, Salford City Council purchased the docks in 1984 using a derelict land grant. The Salford Quays Development Plan was adopted in May 1985, proposing complete reclamation and development of the area for commercial, residential and leisure use.

Wikipedia

Manchester and Salford begin the long haul from post industrial decline to service centred cities – there were even seeds sewn for the development of a luxury marina. When I first visited Pomona the area was seriously overgrown and the underground wiring stripped out.

2010
2010
2020

Remnant of the initial scheme – pedestrian access, balustrade and lighting.

What would poor old Pomona make of all this?

There was a failed attempt to prevent further development and return the area to nature. Peel Holdings prevailed and pressed on relentlessly with their programme of urbanisation.

I have posted concerning Pomona posts previously.

So it’s April 2020 – I’m on my way from somewhere else to somewhere else, I’ll cut across Pomona Island – the building site is in lockdown – ain’t nobody home.

Heaton Norris Park – Stockport

Heaton Norris Park’s elevated position gives stunning views of the Stockport town centre skyline and of the Cheshire plain. The central position of the Park means that it is a green retreat for shoppers and local residents. Also it is within easy reach of the Stockport town centre. The land for this park was acquired by public subscription and as a gift from Lord Egerton. Work on laying out the site as a public park began in May 1873, and it was formally opened on June 5th 1875. Since then it has undergone a number of changes. The construction of the M60 has shaved several acres off the park’s size.

The park began life as Drabble Ash Pleasure Gardens – entrance strictly by token only, as commemorated on the BHS Murals in Merseyway.

5 November 1905 – Edward VII declares his eldest daughter The Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, the Princess Royal.

He also orders that the daughters of Princess Louise, Lady Alexandra Duff and Lady Maud Duff are to be styled as Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness.

So they built a big bonfire on bonfire night at Heaton Norris Park – sometimes they still do.

Picture courtesy of ©Phil Rowbotham

In 1935 the area seems to be little more than windswept cinders and thin forlorn grass, traversed by broad uneven paths – overlooking the dark industrial mire below.

Into the 1960s and although now there is the provision of a children’s play area, the park is still in need of a little more care and attention, the immediate surroundings a dense dark warren of industrial activity and terraced housing.

In 1968 the construction of two twelve storey Stockport County Borough Council residential blocks begins, alongside the recreation grounds, Heaton and Norris Towers, creating 136 new homes.

The 1970s sees the banked gardens bedded out with summer flowers and a crazy golf course on the edge of the bowling area. Both of these features are now a thing of the past, the future financing, care and maintenance of our parks is always precarious, especially during times of central government funding cuts and enforced austerity.

© John Davies

The park now has a Friends group to support it, along with I Love Heaton Norris. The area is cared for and used by all ages and interests children’s play, bowls, tennis, conservation area, football, picnic and floral areas – somewhere and something to be very proud of, social spaces for sociable people.

And much beloved of Natalie Bradbury the SS Norris concrete boat.

Take a walk over the concrete bridge or along Love Lane and treat yourself to a day in the park

Archive photographs Stockport Local Image Archive

Pleasure Gardens – Battersea

So suddenly the war ended and all of a sudden the fun began, followed with indecent haste by a wholesale national lack of fun, no fun anywhere no how.

Well why not have a festival, a Festival of Britain!

The south bank of the Thames had once been home to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Why not put it there or thereabouts.

‘This was always a raucous place, but a temple of the muses too. Under the management of its gifted, quixotic master of ceremonies, Jonathan Tyers, it was perhaps the first public art gallery, hung with paintings by Hogarth and Hayman. The buildings – first Palladian then Gothic and exotic – were splendid and the music inspired. The Vauxhall season was unmissable. Royalty came regularly. Canaletto painted it, Casanova loitered under the trees, Leopold Mozart was astonished by the dazzling lights. The poor could manage an occasional treat. For everyone it was a fantasyland of wonder and pride.’

It was decided there and then, the government would enforce state funded fun!

Programmes were printed and works undertaken.

Festival-Pleasure-Gardens-17-761x1024

Posters were pasted, let the fun begin in Battersea – and all the rest is history.

16 Poster for the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park

Then just as suddenly the fun was all but blown away, by the chill wind of the incoming Tory Government.

Much to my surprise there are still remnants and  reminders to be found on the site, planting, fountains furniture and sculptural structures abound, restored in 2011 by Wandsworth Council – a timely reminder of a time when we were encouraged to have fun on the rates.

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